A preview of Premiere Napa Valley 2016

For two decades, Napa Valley’s top winemakers have auctioned futures of innovative, one-of-a-kind wines for the unique portfolio of wines known as Premiere Napa Valley. This day-long extravaganza of barrel tastings, lunch, and bidding takes place on Saturday, February 20, 2016, with a full week of parties and educational tastings leading up to Premiere.  What a week it will be!PNV-3866

Proceeds from the event support Napa Valley Vintners nonprofit trade association in their efforts to promote, protect, and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. In 2015, an arousing display of uniformly passionate bidding on a range of unique wines resulted in a new record $6 million fundraising total for the Napa Valley Vintners. Premiere Napa Valley las_vegas tasting
As a preview to the 2016 event, Napa Valley Vintners brought six winemakers to Las Vegas in November to offer Premiere Napa Valley barrel samples and a panel discussion led by Master Sommelier Lindsey Geddes.  Held within the grand arches of Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas‘ dining room, along with trade professionals and buyers, I had the opportunity to taste the current releases and barrel samples, as well as hear from the following vintners/winemakers (you can search all the 2016 lots here).

Jimmy Kawalek, Ancien Winery
Ancien Winery, Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Sample
Ancien Winery, 2013 Los Carneros Pinot Noir

Michael Honig, Owner, Honig Vineyard & Winery
Honig Vineyard & Winery, Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Sample
Honig Vineyard & Winery, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Steve Reynolds, Winemaker, Italics Winery and Reynolds Family Winery
Italics Winery, Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Sample
Italics Winery, 2012 Coombsvile Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Reynolds Family Winery, Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Sample
Reynolds Family Winery, 2010 Stags leap District Cabernet Sauvignon

Premiere Napa Valley panel_barrel_tasting_las_vegas

Premiere Napa Valley wines 2016 barrel tasting_las_vegas
Matt Wood, Newton Vineyard and Domaine Chandon
Newton Vineyard, Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Sample
Newton Vineyard, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Premiere Napa Valley_newtonMichael Scholz, Winemaker, St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery
St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery, Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Sample
St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery, 2012 Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

The Culinary Institute of America is home to the 2016 Barrel Tasting and Auction.
The Culinary Institute of America is home to the 2016 Barrel Tasting and Auction.

The experience in Las Vegas was just a small sample of what Premiere Napa Valley will bring in February in Napa, but an exciting representation of the quality and diversity of the Napa Valley AVA. At Premiere, the wines will be previewed and then live-auctioned before an invite-only audience of licensed wine buyers. These wines are truly unique from year-to-year and may be a varietal blend, or a single vineyard expression, a delicious and artistic collection of sub-appellations, or a remarkable vintage.

PNV-
The bidding has begun at Premiere Napa Valley 2015 auction.

This year marks the 20th anniversary.   And, for those around the world that cannot join, an online auction will be unveiled, offering 25 lots featuring unexpected varieties and early release date wines in 60, 120 and 240 bottle lots.

Premiere Napa Valley auction tools of the trade.
Premiere Napa Valley auction tools of the trade.

I consider myself fortunate to experience this on February 20, 2016, and I can’t wait to share more when that time comes!

Select photos: Bob McClenahan for Napa Valley Vintners

An evening with Champagne Taittinger

Rose.Rabbit. Lie., a modern supper club inside The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, was given three distinct names that would convey a unique meaning to each person who entered. Unlocked by three simple words, the name acts as a personal riddle or prophecy. The unique logo is in a shape of a key, which loosely conveys membership and exclusivity, while the three turns in the key coincide with the triplet name and intertwines dining, drink and entertainment concepts.
It’s a place of curiosity, discovery and participation.rose.rabbit.lie Taittinger_Tasting_Las_Vegas_Rose.Rabbit.Lie.Kobrand.Wirtz

Such was the case on that September evening in Las Vegas at a Champagne Taittinger tasting event held at Rose.Rabbit.Lie.  I was invited by Peter Johnston, Director of Sales, Fine Wine Division, of Wirtz Beverage Nevada, to experience Taittinger in a social setting among an intimate group of about 40 influential wine professionals.

Taittinger_Tasting_Wirtz_Las_Vegas_Kobrand_Champagne Inside a cozy, walnut wood-paneled lounge bar called the Study, a relaxed ambiance set the tone for a convivial vibe.  Live music, light bites and good company created a unique communal setting to taste and discover Taittinger’s more casual side.

Champagne Taittinger (pronounced tet-ahn-zhay), is one of the few remaining family-owned and operated Champagne houses. The estate is one of the three most extensive in the Champagne region of France, with vineyard holdings of 752 acres, including prestigious Grand Cru vineyards in the Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims regions. Unlike most large houses, Champagne Taittinger relies primarily on estate grapes for its portfolio of Champagnes.

Taittinger is situated above miles of chalk tunnels and cellars. These 4th century Roman cellars once belonged to the Benedictine monks of the abbey of Saint Nicaise and are perfect for the slow ageing process required for great Champagne.

Unique to Taittinger are the higher proportion of Chardonnay in its wines that gives Taittinger its signature style  – elegance, finesse, and delicacy. This has earned the House worldwide recognition and accolades over the years.  Also, the time devoted to aging the wines before release – most often greatly exceeding the legal requirement – is a practice that has become a Taittinger hallmark.

What we tasted that evening:

ttg_Brut_LAF_btl Taittinger Brut La Française
A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier wines from at least 35 villages. The high proportion of Chardonnay (40%) is unique among fine non-vintage Champagnes. The presses are located in the vineyard for immediate pressing of the fruit after the manual harvest, and the resulting must is cold fermented under temperature-controlled conditions. After resting until the end of winter, the wine is blended, and then the final cuvée undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle in Taittinger’s cool cellars. The aging of Brut La Française on the lees for almost 4 years more than doubles the legal minimum of 15 months. This extra time in the cellars allows the wine to reach the peak of aromatic maturity, and the result is a delicately balanced Champagne, known for its consistently excellent quality.

ttg_Folies_btlLes Folies de la Marquetterie
This single-vineyard cuvée is produced exclusively from grapes grown at Les Folies, a Taittinger-owned vineyard with a south/southwest exposure in the heart of the Champagne winegrowing region. A green harvest ensures that the final harvest has optimum sweetness and aromatic maturity. Only wines from the first pressing are used and each plot is vinified in small volumes, with certain lots in large, old oak casks. Slow aging for five years in bottles brings the flavors of this Champagne to perfect harmony.

ttg_Comtes_Rose_btlComtes de Champagne Rosé
The Comtes Rosé is made from 100% Grand Cru grapes and produced only in exceptional years. The Chardonnay grapes come from the most renowned vineyards of the prestigious Côte des Blancs, and the Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims. Only juice from the first pressing is used in order to ensure the structure and long aging potential that is so essential to this exceptional Champagne. 12% of the Pinot Noir is blended in as still red wine.

 

ttg_Comtes_Blanc_btlComtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs
Produced only in exceptional vintage years and intended as the ultimate expression of the Taittinger style, this wine is composed entirely of Chardonnay grapes grown in the top vineyards of the prestigious Côte des Blancs. Only the first press juice is used. A small proportion (5%) of the blend spends three to four months in new oak barrels, enhancing the intrinsic qualities of the final blend. Prior to disgorgement, the Blanc de Blancs is aged for 10 years on the lees in 13th-century chalk cellars that were once the property of Saint Nicaise abbey.

Many thanks to Wirtz Beverage Nevada and Kobrand Wine & Spirits for a night of “curiosity, discover and participation” with Champagne Taittinger